January 13, 1970
Liverpool can win the FA Cup this season. At least, that’s their manager Bill Shankly’s forecast and on last night’s showing against Coventry City, I’d not disagree with him. For if Liverpool play as they have done in their last four matches in the remaining rounds, then there’s nobody to beat them. They could hardly have been given a tougher first task than this efficient Coventry side but they dismissed them with the minimum of fuss and effort.
Last night, as Coventry tumbled 3-0 off Wembley way, there was scarcely a weak link in Liverpool’s side. Only Ian Callaghan was below his best and he had one of those games that come to all players now and again, when nothing will go right. Yet it was Callaghan who had done so much at Coventry last week to earn Liverpool this replay, taking the tie as whole, his contribution to Liverpool’s place in Round 4 was not small. It is a very healthy sign, however, when a team can have one of its best men off form and still produce the dazzling football that Liverpool played last night.
From the courages Tommy Lawrence in goal – and he produced one injury-defying save at Ernie Hunt’s feet in the first half – to Peter Thompson, functioning on the left. Liverpool are realising all the skilful football and class that in the past has so often been promised only to be stifled by their frantic efforts in the penalty area. But this has now vanished – patience and composure. The headlong dashes and streams of centres into a packed penalty area aimed at two front runners, is a thing of the past at Anfield.
Now Bobby Graham on the right and Peter Thompson on the left, stretch the opposing defence leaving large gaps for any of half a dozen players to exploit as he comes through from behind. With Willie Carr shackled like a prisoner in the Tower by the Anfield warder, Ian Ross, there was space in plenty for Ian St. John to utilise in midfield. And he used it to the full, spraying passes around and splitting the Coventry defence wide open on a number of occasions with inch and pace-true passes.
And with Emlyn Hughes’ energy and drive added on it was only a matter of time before Coventry began to crack. The pace and deftness of Thompson and Graham had them fraying at the edges and it was from here that the first goal stemmed six minutes before the interval.
Thompson made it with a dash to the line leaving Mick Coop floundering in his wake, and Ross, quietly abandoning Carr for the moment, took it was a delicate flick of the head to send the ball arrowing into the bottom corner. It was unfortunate that the fighting spirit this evoked in Coventry was a little too literal, for in the remaining minutes before the cooling off period of half-time, tackles became reckless, nearly to the point of dangerous.
David Clemets was booked for one foul on Hughes and Roy Barry was also booked after he kicked the ball away.
The second half saw Liverpool firmly in control and when Peter Thompson cut in from the left and flashed a low, right foot shot inside the near post after 54 minutes and it was the end for Coventry. Liverpool turned exhibitionist holding on to what they had and playing possession football as the minutes ticked by. Yet Bobby Graham set the seal on a fine game and a magnificent individual performance with the goal of the match after 72 minutes.
Geoff Strong’s shot was blocked and ricocheted out to Callaghan He chipped to the far post where Hughes headed it back into the middle. Although the ball was bouncing awkwardly waist high behind him, Graham pivoted and hooked in an incredible shot in one elegant movement.
(Source: Liverpool Echo: January 13, 1970)